The scandals at football governing body Fifa reminded all of us about the seriousness of corruption in business. Obviously most organisations will never see anything like this scale of activity, but internal fraud is an ever-pressing problem that many businesses face, and which needs to be handled with care.
When trying to take a proactive stance on fraud, most firms face two key hurdles. The first is that they lack real-time visibility into their expenditure and so can’t readily identify suspicious behaviour. The second, and perhaps most damaging, is that fraud prevention is simply not part of the company culture. Recent research by YouGov found that 20 per cent of individuals said that it was acceptable to exaggerate their expenses from time to time. This number jumped to 28 per cent for 18 to 25 year-olds.
So how can businesses look to prevent fraud among employees? To my mind, tackling this issue boils down to three key elements: having the correct systems in place to spot suspicious activity, good management leading the way and by example, and a clear best-practice travel and expense policy.
SPRUCE UP YOUR SYSTEMS
Creating a “business-as-usual-culture” where fraud is frowned upon needs to be facilitated by the right technology. Expenses are the prime example. In the majority of companies, expenses are the business process that time forgot. If you’re still relying on Excel spreadsheets, you’re making it easy to abuse the system. If how you manage expenses hasn’t moved on since the 1970s, the chances are that the culture of “oh, I’ll slip that receipt in for Sunday lunch last weekend” probably still prevails too.
Bribery has become a real issue in recent years and, in many ways, the Bribery Act has provided much-needed impetus for companies to integrate different systems in order to better understand employee spend across the business. Many of our customers are either in the process of, or have already, triangulated their expenses and customer relationship management strategy so that they can better monitor any suspicious behaviour and alert the business.
MANAGERS NEED TO GET TOUGHER
But how much attention do line managers really pay to employee expenditure? The whole system is ripe for manipulation because companies have no real way of tracking or linking the invoices that come into their company and the expenses that go out of it.
To solve this problem, managers need to request that expenses are frequently completed. This will help provide them with insight into and control over employee spend. Equally, if companies audit expense claims on a more regular basis, there will be less opportunity for the system to be abused. Ultimately, this should help drive changes in behaviour and accountability – both of which reduce accidental and intentional fraud and bribery from occurring in the workplace.
THE IMPORTANCE OF GOOD INTERNAL COMMUNICATION
On the whole, employees actually want to do the right thing by the company they work for. Make it easy for them to do so with a clear best-practice policy – void of jargon – that doesn’t leave staff members with a headache. Keep the rules and scenarios simple and easy to understand and they will be more inclined to follow them. To help ensure everyone is on board, businesses could offer employees sessions clearly outlining the process and rules they should be following, to avoid any misunderstandings.